The Albertus C. Van Raalte Collection houses the personal, family, and business papers of A.C. Van Raalte, as well as publications related to him and his work. This collection, which dates from 1829–1997, consists of correspondence, sermons, essays, speeches, articles, business papers, and personal memorabilia, documenting the life and works of A.C. Van Raalte, including his social background as a studious academic and entrepreneur of a brick manufactory in Ommen, his active involvement in the secessionist movement from the Dutch Reformed Church, his encouragement and aid of Dutch immigration to the United States, and his passion for improving the economy and education of the Holland colony.
This collection fits into the broader narrative of immigration to the United States and is unique in focusing not only on the immigration experience of the Dutch, but in examining that experience through the lens of the Holland colony’s foremost leader. In fleeing from religious persecution, the search for freedom colors every page of this immigrant collection, from the most spiritual of sermons to the driest of business papers. Researchers interested in the history of the church Secessionist (Afscheiding) movement, the development of the Holland colony, the background of Hope College, the narrative of the Van Raalte family, and the Dutch immigrant experience—from overcoming colonial struggles to fighting in the Civil War—will all find something to value in this collection.
The collection is arranged into nine series: ‘Personal Papers --- 1829–1995’, ‘Sermons ---1836–1875’, ‘Lord's Day Sermons --- 1836-1844’, ‘Outgoing General Correspondence --- 1837-1876’, ‘Outgoing Family Correspondence --- 1836–1920’, ‘Civil War Letters --- 1862-1952’, ‘Business Papers --- 1840–1909’, ‘Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte --- 1842-1997’, and ‘Miscellaneous Papers, 1740–1996’. Every series is arranged chronologically, excepting ‘Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte --- 1842-1997’ and ‘Miscellaneous Papers, 1740–1996’. Neither series has any other perceptible arrangement.
The ‘Personal Papers --- 1829–1995’ series contains certificates, personal and academic papers, essays, notes, speeches, maps, treatises, records, poems, news clippings, articles, constitutions, event programs, photographs, a genealogy, an autobiography, a biography, beekeeping rules, an attendance record, and a passenger list. It covers much of the Van Raalte family’s personal history, from their lives in the Netherlands to traveling to the United States; from becoming American citizens, to the upbringing of Van Raalte’s students and children. Yet there are also extensive articles detailing the Dutch colony in Michigan and Reformed Church history, especially in relation to the Afscheiding movement.
The ‘Sermons ---1836–1875’ series contains sermons, sermon indexes, related writing, an advertisement, a letter, and envelopes. Many of the sermons have corresponding transcripts. For the most part, one folder corresponds to one year of Van Raalte’s sermons, but the folders start spanning periods of a few months at a time during the years 1841–1843: the critical, founding years of the Afscheiding movement. The folders also switch back to covering only a few months at a time in the years 1850–1855: the years comprising the difficult foundation of the Holland colony.
The ‘Lord's Day Sermons --- 1836–1844’ series contains sermons, transcriptions, a sermon ‘logbook’, and related theological writings. Almost every sermon in this series has been transcribed, though none of them are translated. Each sermon preaches about one or more questions from the Heidelberg Catechism.
The ‘Outgoing General Correspondence --- 1837–1876’ series contains letters, transcriptions, translations, photocopies, and envelopes. Most of the letters have accompanying transcriptions and translations. The letters reveal some of the early struggles that the Holland colony faced, as well as the people involved in making it a success.
The ‘Outgoing Family Correspondence --- 1836–1920’ series holds two other, as yet unlabeled, series, titled “Incoming General Correspondence,” and “Incoming Family Correspondence.” It contains personal and business letters, notes, photocopies, transcriptions, translations, archival notes, receipts, and envelopes. Together, this box allows a more comprehensive view of relations between the Van Raalte family and others.
The ‘Civil War Letters --- 1862–1952’ series contains letters, transcriptions, translations, envelopes, thank you notes, archival resources, and the back of a society form. Almost every letter in this series has been transcribed and translated. The letters follow the Van Raalte brothers—Benjamin and Dirk—throughout the war, tracking them from Kentucky to Tennessee, and finally to Virginia. Dirk lost an arm in battle. These letters also show the experience of 2nd generation immigrants fighting in the American Civil War, as well as the ways the war affected their families and values.
The ‘Business Papers --- 1840–1909’ series contains tax receipts, business receipts, business orders, annual newspaper subscription renewals, note scraps, letters, funding support from the Reformed Protestant Dutch Church, land purchase papers, a land title document, tax land deeds, land certificates (complete with six presidential signatures), land contracts, stamps, mortgage documents, warranty deeds, quit claim deeds, redemption certificates, title abstracts, tax rolls, a post office receipt, a statement of account, a dog license, news clippings, logbooks of the city of Holland (1847–1852), Van Raalte’s personal account books, the Land Office’s Graduation Act of 1854, and catalogs of Hope College. The folders have preserved much of the economy of the Holland colony in their pages. From this series, one can see what the colony and the Van Raalte family was purchasing and selling in the years listed above. It also covers all of the land-related transactions that occurred for the colony on the federal, state, and private levels.
The ‘Publications by and about A.C. Van Raalte --- 1842–1997’ series contains a ledger, an inventory of Van Raalte’s library, letters, pamphlets, articles, addresses, a marriage ledger, a fire insurance company advertisement, and transcriptions and translations for many of these items. It focuses specifically on writings and publications by Van Raalte, exploring critical, underlying documents of the Afscheiding movement, as well as those encouraging Dutch immigration to the United States.
The ‘Miscellaneous Papers, 1740–1996’ series contains the land deed for the Dutch colony in Michigan, the programs for the quarterly and centennial celebrations of 1872 and 1947, newspaper clippings, obituaries, a blotter given as a gift to A.C. Van Raalte, maps, A.C. Van Raalte’s pocketbook New Testament, an Autographs book titled “In Memoriam van Rev. A.C. Van Raalte…”, a sketch, two pictures, advertisements, and geographic coordinate tables, presumably for plots of land. As the name suggests, it covers materials related to the Dutch colony and the Van Raalte family that do not fall under the category of any of the other series.